Leadership Trends and Challenges for 2018

By Chris Sheppardson, founder of EP Innovates (www.epinnovates.com)

As small businesses and entrepreneurs brace themselves for the start of another New Year, the demise of true leadership and business culture in general, will become very much a core and central issue for discussion again in 2018. These issues are not new and have been commonplace throughout 2017. Leadership (or lack of it) in particular, has been driven by the cultural and working environment, generational change, mental health and talent development. That said, the root causes and reasons why leadership is dwindling in this country are often misunderstood. So in 2018 there is a clear need to demystify some of the assumptions and confusion behind this argument.

The argument that the world has never changed at such a rapid pace previously is, in truth, false; as is the argument that this is the second industrial revolution. Historians can show that the world changed at a greater speed during the 1940s and 50s especially with the advent of commercial international airlines and television for instance.

A tribal vibe

The more truthful critique is frankly that leaders are far less visible and less accessible today generally. The Brits are traditionally very ‘tribal’ beings and we need to be able see and to be close to our leaders. This is perhaps why the captains of our sports teams hold such an elevated position in society and often a cult status in our culture. Think Bobby Moore, Martin Johnson, Will Carling, David Beckham.

Good leadership itself is crucial to wellbeing within a company and yet CEOs are feeling are more pressure than ever before with 2017 seeing many of these senior level roles being ditched in some larger organisations. What marks this period of time to be so different is that it is arguably the first time that professionals and board directors are actually under threat. Traditionally it has been blue-collar professions that have been under threat but in 2018 this has the potential to be reversed.

For example, the hospitality industry alone has reputedly 125,000 director positions that remain unfilled and are likely to stay that way as they are being replaced by process, systems and others carrying the workload. It is expected that the numbers of directors in business will fall by around 30% over the next decade and this will mean:

  • There will be leading talent that need new career paths
  • That many in middle management will not be directors and will seek other career routes
  • A rise in the gig economy

Changing industries

As a further industry example, it is expected that much of the legal profession will be under threat by online services and that day rates will fall and that many lawyers will be cut.   The legal profession will also become more digitalised (as will many other sectors) and this will result in the loss of many clerks and administrators from the profession with virtual court cases taking place.

In management consultancy, there is a view that 35% of partners will be lost and again that day rates will reduce amongst the leading firms. These trends will lead to an increase in more people becoming entrepreneurs and opting out of corporate life. All this is conjecture to a level but there is no doubt that the changes and pressures points in business today are more different than ever before and we should expect to see evidence of this in 2018 and beyond. There may have been more change previously but the truth is, it is challenging leadership today.

There are those who will argue that 50% of present existing jobs within the traditional professional sectors will be lost, but the likelihood is simply that this will be more akin to 30% but that new roles and services will emerge.  This will likely lead to increased entrepreneurship in 2018 and beyond.

People at the heart

Another interesting and current argument is that technological advance may be new in the digital age but is little more than that. It is noted that the 1960s was a result of the 40s and 50s and we are simply seeing a similar period of change and openness. The one constant is that people sit at the heart but that there is a need to look at how skills are retrained and refocused.

This is namely because people are the one great differential today and we do enjoy communities and being together and this will simply evolve over the next few years. At the same time, many CEOs are under increased pressures as business costs are on the rise, margins are becoming tighter and stakeholders want a fair return. Teams will be increasingly important as will individual productivity, as this requires strong cultures and positive work environments.

The increased levels of stress and disengagement that we often hear about today is simply because many companies and directors are struggling to adapt to all of the extra pressures and advances and there is a need for realignment and retrenching with old values that did exist in the past.

What does all this mean for 2018?

  • There will be many people who find their past career routes blocked and will want to reinvent their careers
  • There will be a need for a broader and more inclusive focus towards talent and greater investment back into people and leadership development
  • Traditional outplacement will need to change
  • Teams, culture and strong values will be important for good productivity and business performance
  • There will be new jobs, roles and services that will emerge
  • There will be increased entrepreneurship over the next few years
  • Companies will need to rediscover and implement many of the old school disciplines and practices to succeed in the future


About EPinnovates (www.epinnovates.com)

A shop window for entrepreneurial innovation, EPinnovates has been created to showcase exciting innovations, new products, services, concepts and businesses for larger companies to discover and explore.  Designed to recognise and support the innovation that entrepreneurs and smaller businesses bring to the future economy, EPinnovates tells stories about entrepreneurs; each has a different tale, adventure and overcomes diverse obstacles, but all are looking to improve business and create value.  Accessing these ideas and innovations can be difficult for businesses to truly discover so EPinnovates acts to bridge that gap and help to engineer the future for the better by introducing larger companies to entrepreneurs through the principles of trust, community and relationships.

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